The following is an account I have written about the work of my friend and winner of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017. The piece offers an insight and observations on his motivations and working practices.
‘All paintings start out of a mood, out of a relationship with things or people, out of a complex of visual impressions – to call this expression abstract seems to me often to confuse the issue, abstract means literally to draw from or separate, in this sense every artist is abstract…’ Richard Diebenkorn.
The artist Richard Diebenkorn spent his career addressing tensions of abstraction and figuration within his work. Not content with the mandate of either a purely abstract or figurative approach, Diebenkorn trail-blazed an alternative. Creating an art whose strength lay in a tension beneath calm. And as a result, paved the way for future generations of artists.
Tom Voyce is one such benefactor. As with Diebenkorn, there is a tension beneath calm in Toms work. With each piece he embarks upon, one gets the impression there is a tightrope to be walked between abstraction and figuration, and a resolve to be reached. It is this tension, and sometimes unresolved, that gives his work the very energy, dynamism and vibrancy that makes the paintings so successful. His language is one of abstract concerns (shape, dimension, tone, colour, mark etc) balanced with the presence of organic forms, where landscape provides a rationale or pattern which informs his compositions.
To call Tom a landscape painter then, does perhaps not do justice to the wider concerns present within his work. The subject at hand here is not landscape itself, but rather the components of such that make up our perception and experience of a place; light, tone, shadow, colour. What we are offered through these paintings are accounts of fleeting moments within a landscape; the fall of light on a building, or the shadows cast by a motorway flyover. The strength in these pieces lie not in their faithful depiction of a landscape, but in their suggestion of a sense of place, of being present within a particular space at a particular moment.
Like the Impressionists, his work offers a glimpse of a fleeting moment, providing a snapshot of some deeply profound experience, or equally, some mundane yet striking moment worthy of record. It is perhaps through this sense that the small-scale Tom so often uses works so effectively. Working on this scale heightens the intimacy of the pieces and the experiences he is referring to through paint. His use of colour only acts to build on these experiences, creating atmosphere through the layering of thinly painted veils of pigment that transmit light.
Tom’s working of composition is of particular importance here too. His use of board as a support for his pieces combined with his preferred use of the portrait format, projects his paintings into the realm of ‘object’, and hold a resemblance to the architectural forms and slabs of buildings found in many of his pieces. His ‘painted frame’ technique acts as another form from which he is able to respond and work against, and at times becomes as much a part of the composition as the shapes, buildings and overpasses found in his subject.
As a contemporary artist today, one stands within a vast tradition, and as a painter concerned with the genre of landscape this tradition is only more prominent. Tom Voyce stands firmly within the roots of this tradition and those that came before, whilst offering a refreshing and innovative approach to the genre, and one that will be exciting to see develop.